‘Gunsmoke’: What James Arness Did Later in Life

After 20 years of “Gunsmoke,” many fans wondered what happened to star James Arness in his golden years.

How could they forget the TV star who acted for 20 years on their television screens?

In 1998, a TV Guide survey of 50,000 readers said “Gunsmoke” was their favorite western. The readers also called Arness the “greatest gunslinger” from all the shows in the CBS library.

Arness On Life After “Gunsmoke”

The actor didn’t stop his love of acting in westerns after “Gunsmoke” ended. It’s kind of wild that Arness bounced around Hollywood for ten years before he found success on the CBS show.

In a 2001 Biography magazine article, the former Marshal Matt Dillon actor talked about starring in “How the West Was Won.” The role as mountain man Zeb Macahan caught on with European audiences and gained him cult status.

The older brother of “Mission: Impossible” star Peter Graves also played a police officer in “McClain’s Law” with former “Barnaby’s Law” star Marshall Colt.

But Arness had to return to that famous Dillon character that made him a star a few times. He also worked in five more made-for-TV “Gunsmoke” movies from 1978 to 1994. Arness worked almost until the end, starring his last “Gunsmoke V: One Man’s Justice” production at 71. 

After that last movie, he enjoyed life with his second wife, Janet. The two worked on charity projects. Arness did the best he could as his bad leg (a World War II injury that earned him a purple heart) caught up with him.

The GunsmokeNet website mentioned the actor finished his autobiography in 2001. Former “Gunsmoke” co-star Burt Reynolds wrote the book’s forward.

Arness told Biography Magazine that he often reflected on his entertainment career. “It really has been a great career, a great life,” Arness said.

He died in 2011 at age 88.

‘Gunsmoke’ Star Known To Watch His Show 

Stars these days will lament that they hate watching themselves on film or television.

Maybe it’s just a matter of time before they’d get curious and go back.

James Arness wasn’t afraid to look back at his old “Gunsmoke” performances in syndication. The show left the CBS airwaves in 1975 after a 20-year run. The series produced an astounding 635 episodes. 

The website GunsmokeNet.com recounted an Amarillo (Texas) Globe-Mail interview where Arness said reflected on the show. The longtime actor said the shows were “they’re interesting to watch all these years later.” 

The towering 6-foot-7 actor had quite a 47-year career. He worked in showbiz and got an excellent opportunity to work with one of his mentors, John Wayne. Wayne introduced Arness to the TV world in the first screen episode. For years, the famous Dodge City show was on the radio airwaves.

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